Camera, "Swinger", 1965. Henry Dreyfuss. Museum purchase through gift of Neil Sellin. 1999-2-4.

The Swinger

In 1960, Edwin Land, founder of the Polaroid Corporation, approached American designer Henry Dreyfuss regarding their cameras. The Automatic 100 Land Camera, which allowed the photographer to remove the developing print as soon as the picture had been snapped, was the first new product to result from their collaboration. It exemplified the successful integration of the industrial designer with a team of engineers, physicists, and specialists.

While Polaroid gained a reputation for innovations, Dreyfuss’s designers helped make this technology accessible to users. Cameras became easier to operate and less expensive, culminating in the Swinger (1965). Priced at under $20, it used an inexpensive black-and-white roll film and brought Polaroid photography to the broadest and largest audience it had ever enjoyed. Land, it was said, liked Dreyfuss because he “didn’t know what couldn’t be done.” The professional distinctions between engineers, designers, and scientists became irrelevant in the pursuit of Land’s vision of a single-lens reflex and litter-free instant camera that could produce photographs almost as rapidly as a button could be pushed, the SX70 of 1972.

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